So what comes next? Here’s how it breaks down.
Who will replace Liz Truss? Rishi Sunak, Boris Johnson among the suitors.
Why is the British Conservative Party choosing a new leader?
In the British parliamentary system, the leader of the largest party in the House of Commons is supposed to form a government. The Conservative Party has led the UK government since 2010 and holds a dominant parliamentary majority.
But that’s where its success ends.
Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the charismatic but chaotic leader who led the Tories to victory in 2019, was ousted this summer after a long wave of scandals prompted members of his own government to resign.
After a grueling two-month internal selection process, the Conservatives elected a new leader: Liz Truss. But she only lasted six weeks before announcing her resignation on Thursday. Support for his government plummeted in national polls after financial markets panicked over his economic program, prompting a swift government reversal.
Truss’ brief stint as prime minister comes with a lifetime financial benefit
What is the process for selecting a new chef?
It’s not a simple question, it turns out.
In the competition to succeed Johnson over the summer, candidates for prime minister had to secure 20 nominations to advance to the next stage. After several rounds, the list of candidates was narrowed down to two – Truss and Rishi Sunak, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer – with paying Conservative Party members, numbering just 172,000, casting the deciding votes.
The whole process took two months – a long time, given the budget crisis Britain finds itself in, the demands of the war in Ukraine and other pressing issues. This time, the process was sped up to take barely a week.
The powerful 1922 committee of the Conservative Party, a group of lawmakers in parliament that has no members from government departments, said on Thursday that anyone wishing to put their name forward for the leadership race will need nominations of at least 100 Conservative MPs.
Nominations must close on Monday at 2 p.m. local time. The aim is to submit the last two candidates to an online vote of party members before October 28. (An idea to suppress the vote of party members – often an unrepresentative section of wider British society that tends to favor hard-liner candidates but are the most committed to internal party politics – did not apparently not successful.)
Currently, the three favorites are Sunak, Johnson (yes, again) and Penny Mordaunt, who is the Conservative leader in the House of Commons.
Britain ‘exasperated’ by dizzying political changes after Truss’ departure
Why are there no general elections?
You may have noticed that all of this is happening within the Conservative Party. What about the public and other opposition parties, such as Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party?
Under the current rules, they effectively have no say.
The next UK election is scheduled for early 2025. Although Parliament could call a snap election, the huge majority the Conservatives still enjoy means that no early vote could go ahead without substantial backing from them.
Polls show that if a general election were held tomorrow, the Tories would lose – badly.
Analysts believe Labor could beat the landslide victory that gave Tony Blair the premiership in 1997. Some observers suggest the Tories could face parliamentary annihilation, ending up with just five seats to 523 for the labor (the The House of Commons has a total of 650 seats).
But public sentiment is in favor of an election – 63% want a snap election, according to a poll released on Thursday – that would put pressure on whoever the next Conservative party leader is to at least accept the idea.
The idea of Johnson’s return only added to the possibility of a snap election. Many Tory MPs publicly broke with Johnson towards the end of his premiership just months ago, raising questions about his ability to secure a real majority.
Johnson is also under investigation for possibly misleading parliament, which could lead to his suspension from office (although he is no longer prime minister, he remains a member of parliament).
Labor leader Keir Starmer said on Friday there should be an immediate election, arguing the country “cannot have another experience at the top of the Conservative party”.
“It’s not just a soap opera at the top of the Conservative Party; it does a huge damage to the reputation of our country,” he told the BBC.